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Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Receives $400k Grant to Keep South Texas Renters in Homes

Grants to help renters impacted by COVID-19 with legal assistance to avoid eviction, part of the company’s efforts to keep people housed

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Texas Border Business

MERCEDES, TX –  Up to 40 million U.S. renters may face eviction by the end of the year due to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. People of color, including Black and Hispanic tenants, represent 80% of people potentially facing eviction once federal rental protections end, according to research from the Aspen Institute and the COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project.

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a temporary moratorium halting the eviction of tenants who cannot pay rent through the end of the year, the moratorium requires that tenants must still file a federal declaration form to be eligible for the eviction protection. Additionally, tenants are obligated to navigate varying state laws and local legal proceedings.

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) today announced a $400,000 total grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation which will enable the organization to provide free or low-cost legal assistance and representation for people in South Texas disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and at-risk of eviction. The grant will be distributed as $200,000 per year for two years.

“Lack of legal representation for low-income people is a glaring equity gap,” said Rulon Washington, community outreach manager with the Wells Fargo Foundation. “We believe supporting efforts to provide low-income renters at risk with legal assistance is an important step in helping the most vulnerable people stay housed.”

Harvard researchers found an estimated 90% of landlords have legal representation, while only 10% of tenants do, putting them at a significant disadvantage. However, two-thirds of tenants with legal representation are more likely to avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their home.

“Our clients face an uneven playing field in their efforts to stay housed,” said Robert Elder, TRLA director of Communications. “TRLA is pleased to have additional funds to help our clients apply for the protections afforded by the temporary moratorium on evictions.”

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As part of its $175 million response to COVID-19, the Wells Fargo Foundation has made more than 1,200 grants in support of national and local nonprofits to help keep people housed.

The Wells Fargo Foundation efforts to address the housing affordability crisis in response to COVID-19 includes expanding the capacity of housing counselors to respond to renters and homeowners, supporting nonprofits that provide affordable rental homes and services, and funding for legal assistance organizations to provide legal counsel and representation for renters at-risk of eviction. These efforts are part of the Wells Fargo Foundation’s $1 billion philanthropic commitment to address housing affordability solutions by 2025 by investing in strategies to advance housing stability, increasing supply of affordable homes; expanding homeownership opportunities for people of color; and driving transformation and innovation in local communities. 

In addition to TRLA, other grantees include Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Bay Area Legal Aid, Colorado Legal Services, Community Legal Services (Philadelphia, PA), Greater Miami Legal Services, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (Richmond, VA), Lawyers Committee for Better Housing (Chicago, IL), Legal Aid of North Carolina, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid, National Housing Law Project, Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and Volunteer Lawyers Birmingham.

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